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Japanese Cinema

Japanese cinema flourished early on and silent films were being made right through the 1930s. Most were accompanied by a 'benshi' or live narrator telling the story as well as live music. Very little survives from this era however; the 1923 earthquake, the bombings of WW2 and the country's high humidity destroyed many of these historical works. Of those that survive, the early works of Kenji Mizoguchi are highly regarded and he went on to make the classic 'The Life of Oharu' in 1952. Of course no discussion on Japanese cinema is possible without mention of their best known son, Akira Kurosawa. With a career spanning 60 years Kurosawa's ground-breaking films (e.g. 'Seven Samurai', 'Kagemusha', 'Ran') influenced film makers around the world. Most recently Japanese cinema hero 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano revitalised the Yakuza genre; and young mavericks like Takashi Miike ('Audition', 'Ichi the Killer) and Hideo Nakata ('Ring', 'Dark Water') have breathed new life into the horror flick, their films often (and promptly!) remade by US production houses. For Japanime, use the animation link to the left. Pictured: Kurosawa teamed once more with the incomparable Toshiro Mifune for 'Seven Samurai'

13 Assassins (2010)

7.6/10
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Koji Yakusho, Yusuke Iseya, Takayuki Yamada, Tsuyoshi Ihara

Acclaimed cult director Takashi Miike's remake of the 1963 Japanese film delivers a bravado period action piece set at the end of Japan's feudal era.... Read more

3 Extremes (2004)

6.3/10
Director: Takashi Miike, Chan-wook Park, Fruit Chan
Starring: Kyoko Hasegawa, Atsuro Watabe, Byung-hun Lee, Won-hee Lim, Hye-jeong Kang, Jung-...

Three of Asia's hottest directors join forces for this horror triple. Hong Kong's Fruit Chan, Korea's Park Chan-wook and Japan's Takashi Miike each co... Read more

5 Centimetres Per Second (2007)

Director: Makoto Shinkai

This animated triptych - named for the speed at which cherry blossoms fall to the ground - is made up of three stories surrounding Takaki, a Japanese... Read more

A Letter to Momo (2011)

7.3/10
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura

Clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, young Momo moves with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the remote Japanese... Read more

A Silent Voice (Koe no katachi) (2016)

8.2/10
Director: Naoko Yamada

A deaf elementary school girl, Shoko Nishimiya, upon transferring, meets a boy named Shoya Ishida in her new class. Shoya, who is not deaf, leads the... Read more

A Tattooed Life (1965)

Director: Seijun Suzuki
Starring: Hideki Takahashi, Akira Yamauchi, Hiroko Ito, Masako Izumi, Kayo Matsuo

Another yakuza classic from maverick director Seijun Suzuki ('Tokyo Drifter', 'Branded to Kill') about a recently retired assassin who finds he made s... Read more

A Taxing Woman (1987)

7.4/10
Director: Juzo Itami
Starring: Nobuko Miyamoto, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Masahiko Tsugawa

Juzo Itami's hilarious follow-up to 'Tampopo' is a satiric comedy of ambition, greed and the battle of the sexes. A disarming and dedicated woman tax... Read more

A Weatherwoman (1995)

Director: Tomoaki Hosoyama
Starring: Kei Mizutami, Kunihiko Ida, Eisei Amamoto

This over-the-top farce about greed, power, and Japan's national obsession with weather reports stars a gorgeous Kei Mizutami playing a very unusual w... Read more

After Life (1998)

7.7/10
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Naito Taketoshi, Oda Erika, Terajima Susumu, Naito Takashi, Tani Kei

Many films have offered insight into the unexplainable realm of the after life. In Kore-eda Hirokazu's ("Maborosi") thought-provoking vision, the newl... Read more

After the Storm (2016)

7.4/10
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Yoko Maki

Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, Ryota wastes the money he makes as a private detective on gambling and can barely pay child supp... Read more